Monday, May 21, 2007

This is not a Dead Blog

Unfortunately for the next 2 months, I have to leave for a place where internet access is going to be a challenge. As such, dear readers, this blog will stay dormant for the duration.

Dormant, not Dead. For I will be back. Better and more fascinating than ever before. The mission of spreading knowledge will continue.

I thank you for all the support you have given to nosco. See you in some time!


P.S. 'nosco' means 'get to know' in latin.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Queen Elizabeth II

Elizabeth II (born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary) is Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In addition to the United Kingdom, Elizabeth II is also Queen of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, and Saint Kitts and Nevis, where she is represented by Governors-Generals. She is the world's only monarch who is simultaneously Head of State of more than one independent nation. In practice, however, she personally exercises very little political or executive power, especially outside the UK.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Elizabeth was born on 21 April 1926 in London, the first child of Albert, Duke of York, and his wife, formerly Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (now the Queen Mother). Although her birth generated public interest, there was no reason at the time to believe that she would ever become queen. That was until her uncle Edward VIII abdicated in December 1936. Her father then became King George VI and she having no male siblings, became heir.

Changing a wheel during war service

In 1945, Princess Elizabeth convinced her father that she should be allowed to contribute directly to the war effort. She joined the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service, where she was trained as a driver. This training was the first time she had been taught together with other students. It is said that she greatly enjoyed this and that this experience led her to send her own children to school rather than have them educated at home. She was the first, and so far only, female member of the royal family to actually serve in the armed forces, though other royal women have been given honorary ranks.

On her 21st birthday she made an international radio broadcast to the British Commonwealth pledging, "I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service."

Elizabeth married Prince Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh (born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark) on 20 November 1947. The couple are second cousins once removed. They have four children: Prince Charles - now The Prince of Wales; Princess Anne - now The Princess Royal; Prince Andrew - now The Duke of York and Prince Edward - now The Earl of Wessex.

The Queen with Prince Philip

King George VI died on 6 February 1952 while Elizabeth and Philip were in Kenya.
Elizabeth was staying at the Treetops Hotel in Thika, when she was told of her father's death and of her own succession to the throne — a unique circumstance for any such event. She was the first British monarch since the accession of George I to be outside the country at the moment of succession, and also the first in modern times not to know the exact time of her accession (because her father had died in his sleep at an unknown time).
She returned home immediately, and was crowned at Westminster Abbey in June 1953. For more than 50 years, during a period of great change in Britain, the queen has carried out her political duties as head of state, the ceremonial responsibilities of the sovereign and a large annual programme of visits in the United Kingdom as well as numerous foreign tours.

<<-In the White House

<-In Canada

Despite the controversies and scandals surrounding her children and other members of the royal family, she remains a respected head of state. In 2002, Elizabeth celebrated her golden jubilee (50 years on the throne) and in 2006 her 80th birthday.

On May7th 2007, George W.Bush winks at the Queen

The Queen shows her disapproval

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Tribute to Dead Blogs

According to recent reports, 'Dead Blogs', blogs which have been abandoned by their authors have seen a rapid increase in numbers, slowly leading to the bursting of the 'Blog Bubble'. Honestly, do a blog search and most of the blogs you'll find are dead. Heres a short piece as a tribute to these Blogs, which have been abandoned by their creators. Excuse me for the digression from the main theme of this column.

O Blog!
Why are you so silent and voiceless? Why are you submerged in the depths of reticence? Why are you dormant, like the deepest file of a collosal library? Where is that thrill, that joy, that compassion that exists ever so blatantly in your counterparts? Where is the Life in you, o blog? Where is that quick zeal that you had when you were born?

Alas, the one who gave birth to you is yours no more. You were discarded pitilessly, into the dark dungeons of abyss. You were betrayed o blog, forced to enter through the posterns of this vicious world. And now, shortly after you crossed those evil gates, you lie abandoned, forlorn, and desolate. The companions who were formerly drawn towards you now have no recollection of you. You have been thrown away from all memories, all remembrances. You have been denied of all the rights that your creator initially pledged. You have been nothing but entangled in your own awaited fate.

As I lament over your lifeless form, a question pops up in my mind, not unlike those awfully annoying internet popups - Why were you made, O Blog? To lie down in this cunningly obscure world of the internet, and exist merely as a reserved name? Or to maintain joyousness in this world of humans, who inspite of being physically in the remote corners of the Earth, could have been linked together by your virtue? The latter is the true answer, O Blog, and alas, what it turned out to be. You wanted to be the cord that joined many a heart. You wished to be the noble messenger, conveying the words of wisdom to many a soul. You desired to be the Phidippides of the web, O Blog; not to be entangled in its countless strands after a few moons of your birth.

Why, you were adored at the outset, those softsoap butterers acclaiming your creation, bragging about your virtues, grinning at their glory, only to abandon you at last in none but a few days, bored by you, yawning at your sight, and labelling you 'useless', 'pathetic', and 'ineffective'. You were hurriedly forgotten, o blog, as a dancer with the black pestilence, tossed out of their memories like a disturbing thought, non-existent to the best of their knowledge. Even today, O Blog, if one reminds them of you, they exclaim in surprise: What Blog?. What was it you performed to deserve this injustice? What was it you did to deserve life yet not live? Was it your goodness? Or was it your desire to serve?

As I observe your woeful form, O blog, I cannot help but express it in this dispatch. You recline there inaudibly, tangled in the wicked chains of inferno, which refuse to let go. You lie there in obscurity, desperately yearning for a beam of hope, craving for what you had lost virtually a revolution ago. I percieve your expectant eyes gaze far out, seemingly in search of something- or someone? You attempt to create a vocal vibration to cry out, with your voice box apparently jammed in helplessness. You try to reclaim your existence and your being, but oh, the malicious adhesive refuses to let go. You possess no choice, o blog. You must stay.

What villain hath done this to you, O Blog! What human being made this of you? Was it your sly creator, who ever so tenderly composed your being, only to obnoxiously desert you out of spite and malice. He seemed to be relentlessly conniving against your noble spirit, longing for you to depart from our awareness, perhaps resentful of your incalculable virtues. Thou has't no one.

Now I must leave. I have lamented enough.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

The Koh-i-Noor Diamond

The Koh-i-Noor Diamond, set on the Crown of Queen Elizabeth I of England

The Koh-i-Noor (Persian: "Mountain of Light") is a 105 carat diamond that was once the largest known diamond in the world. Presently, it is estimated to be the costliest in the world. The Koh-i-Noor originated in India, and belonged to various Indian and Persian rulers who fought bitterly over it at various points in history. It was never bought or sold, but changed many hands. Koh-i-noor has left a trail that speaks of greed, power, murder, mayhem and unhappiness. It was considered a priceless stone, and its owner often gained the respect not given to other rulers. It was the ultimate symbol of Indian wealth and power.
The Koh-i-Noor kept on passing from powerful rulers to more powerful rulers within India.
However, when the British conquered India in the 19th century, it was taken as a trophy of war, and became part of the British Crown Jewels.

Like all significant jewels, the Koh-i-Noor has its share of legends. It is reputed to bring misfortune or death to any male who wears or owns it. Conversely, it is reputed to bring good luck to its female owners.

Mughal Empire of India

The first confirmed note historically mentioning the Koh-i-Noor dates from 1526. The founder of the Mughal Empire in India - Babur - mentions in his memoirs the "Baburnama", that the stone had belonged to an unnamed Rajah(King) of Malwa in 1294. It was then acquired by the dynasties of the Delhi Sultanate(Muslim Sultans who had Delhi as the capital of their empire), finally coming into the possession of Babur himself in 1526 when he conquered Delhi. Babur held the stone's value to be such as to feed the whole world for two days. Despite some debate about the identity of Babur's Diamond, it is likely that it was the stone which later became known as Kohinoor.

Babur with the Koh-i-Noor

Babur ruled only for four years and died in 1530 after a brief illness. After his death the precious stone was passed on to his son Humayun and later on - to successive generations of Moghul rulers, including Shah Jahan - the builder of Taj Mahal, who set the priceless gem in his famous Peacock Throne as one of the peacock’s eyes. In 1719, Muhammad Shah was crowned the Mughal Emperor of Delhi, when he was barely seventeen years old, inheriting the Koh-i-Noor.

Nadir Shah

During the same period on the other side of the border, the fortunes of the Persian(now Iran) Empire were on the rise. Nadir Shah, a humble shepherd's son and now the King of Persia marched into Delhi and defeated the already crumbling Mughal Empire. However, the Koh-i-Noor was nowhere to be seen. He heard later that Muhammad Shah hid it in his own turban. Consequently, Nadir Shah ordered a grand ceremony to be held where he would hand over the control of the Mughal Empire back to Muhammad Shah. During the ceremony, he reminded Muhammad Shah of the ancient tradition of exchanging turbans between kings as a sign of friendship and fraternal ties, leaving the latter with no choice but to perform the gesture. Nadir Shah hurried into his apartments and eagerly undid the folds of the turban, where he found the hidden diamond. Wonderstruck at its size, beauty, and brilliance, he exclaimed: "Koh-i-noor" , which in Persian means "Mountain of Light", and the gem gained its present name. He then took it to Persia with him.

After the death of Nadir Shah, the Koh-i-noor ended in possession of one of his sons Shah Shuja. In the changing fortunes of war, Shah Shuja was defeated by the allies of his brother, Mahmud Shah. Shah Shuja, now the deposed ruler of Persia, managed to flee with the Koh-i-Noor diamond. In 1830, he then came to Lahore, the capital of Maharaja(King) Ranjit Singh, where he presented it to him. The Maharaja had the prized jewel fitted in his turban. Later he had it sewn into an armlet, which he wore on all the important state occasions, where it remained for twenty years.

In 1849, Maharaja Ranjit Singh's successor surrendered the Koh-i-noor diamond to the British under the terms of a treaty, at the end of the Second Anglo-Sikh War. The treaty specified that, "The gem called the Koh-i-Noor which was taken from Shah Shuja-ul-Mulk by Maharajah Ranjit Singh shall be surrendered by the Maharajah of Lahore to the Queen of England."

In 1851, The Koh-i-noor was formally handed over to Queen Victoria in a private ceremony held in Buckingham Palace. In 1936, the stone was set in the Maltese Cross at the front of the crown made for Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother). Given the long and bloody history of the diamond, there are many countries with a claim on it. In 1976, Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto asked British Prime Minister Jim Callaghan for the Koh-i-Noor to be returned to Pakistan. The prime minister replied to Mr Bhutto with a polite "No", and British diplomats in the countries likely to counter this claim were asked to 'kill the story'. Other claims have been made by India, the Taliban regime of Afghanistan, and Iran.

Today, the Koh-i-noor is kept with other precious objects of the British Crown in a round display case in the basement of the "Jewel House" of the Tower of London, far away from playing any role in intrigues, assassinations, battles, wars and lust - as had happened with its possessors in the past. It only casts its brilliance on the millions of tourists who, for the most part, are unaware of its long history in shaping the destinies of great men.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Concorde Supersonic Transport

Only two supersonic passenger airliners have operated commercially, and the Concorde supersonic transport (SST) was the more successful one of them. First flown in 1969, commercial flights by British airways and Air France commenced in 1976 and continued for 27 years. It regularly flew from London Heathrow (British Airways) and Paris Charles de Gaulle (Air France) to New York JFK and Washington Dulles. It set many records, including circumnavigating the world in a time of 31 hours 27 minutes 49 seconds. It also employed a trademark droop nose for visibility to pilots on approach. Concorde had an average cruise speed of Mach 2.02 (2.02 times the speed of sound, about 2,140 km/h or 1,330 mph).

In the late 1950s, the United Kingdom, France, United States and Soviet Union were considering developing supersonic transport. Britain's Bristol Aeroplane Company and France's Sud Aviation were both working on designs, largely funded by their respective governments. The designs were both ready to start prototype construction in the early 1960s, but the cost was so great that the British government made it a requirement that BAC look for international co-operation. Approaches were made to a number of countries, but only France showed real interest. The development project was negotiated as an international treaty between the two countries. By this time, both companies had been merged into new ones, thus the Concorde project was between the British Aircraft Corporation and Aerospatiale.

Concorde vs Boeing 747

The new consortium secured orders for over 100 of the long-range jets from the premier airlines of the day, including Pan Am, Air France, Panair do Brasil, Japan Airlines, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, American Airlines, Air Canada, Iran Air, etc.
When the aircraft was fully tested by 1973 however, a combination of factors(the oil crisis, environmental concerns, etc.) led to a sudden number of order cancellations.
In the end, Only Air France and British Airways took up their orders.

Passenger experience on Concorde differed in many ways from that on subsonic commercial airliners. British Airways and Air France configured the passenger cabin as a single class with around 100 seats — four seats across with a central aisle. Headroom in the central aisle was barely six feet (1.8 m) and the leather seats were unusually narrow with legroom comparable to economy class on large airliners. With almost no room for overhead storage, carry-on luggage was severely restricted. Unlike the Boeing 747, video entertainment, rotating or reclining seats and walking areas were absent from Concorde.

Inside a Concorde

However, the flight time from London to New York of approximately 3.5 hrs compensated for the lack of those features. There was usually a plasma display at the front of the cabin showing the altitude, the air temperature and the current speed in both miles per hour and Mach number.
To make up for these missing "comfort" features, a high level of passenger service was maintained. Meals were served using specially designed compact Wedgwood crockery with short silver cutlery.

The experience of passing through the sound barrier was less dramatic than might be expected. The moment, accompanied by a slight surge in acceleration, was announced by one of the pilots. On certain early evening transatlantic flights departing from Heathrow or Paris, it was possible to take off just after sunset and catch up with the sun, landing in daylight; from the cockpit, the sun could be seen rising from the horizon in the west. This was much publicised by British Airways, who used the slogan "Arrive before you leave."

The social and environmental impact of extreme technology was an issue of debate during its flight time. It produced sonic boom over the areas it passed at supersonic speeds. These booms sound not different from thunder. Hence the flight of the concorde over residential areas was very restricted. Normally, it flew over oceans and seas to prevent this.

On fire

On 25 July 2000, Air France Flight 4590 crashed in Gonesse, France, killing all 100 passengers and nine crew on board the flight, and four people on the ground. It was the first and only fatal incident involving the type.
According to the official investigation conducted by the French accident investigation bureau, it was caused by a titanium strip, part of a thrust reverser, that fell from a Continental Airlines DC-10 that had taken off about four minutes earlier. This metal fragment punctured a tyre on the left main wheel bogie. The tyre exploded, and a piece of rubber hit the fuel tank and broke an electrical cable. So much for a piece of metal.

On 10 April 2003, British Airways and Air France simultaneously announced that they would retire Concorde later that year. They cited low passenger numbers following the 25 July 2000 crash, the slump in air travel following 9/11 and rising maintenance costs.

It has been suggested that Concorde was not withdrawn for the reasons usually given, and that the airlines discovered during the grounding that Concorde's first class passengers were loyal to the airlines, and carrying them on subsonic aircraft gave greater revenue and that this was the real reason for the withdrawal from service.

Last flight

The Concorde's enigma was such that an overflight would frequently temporarily halt day-to-day business. It was usually referred to by the British as simply "Concorde" and the French as "le Concorde". As a symbol of national pride, a plane from the British Airways fleet made occasional flypasts at selected Royal events, major airshows and other special occasions, sometimes in formation with the Red Arrows. On the final day of commercial service, public interest was so great that grandstands were erected at London's Heathrow Airport to manage a view of the final arrivals. Crowds filled the boundary road around the airport along with extensive media coverage.

The Concorde being towed through New York harbour, to the "Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum" on the Hudson River.

Thirty-seven years after her first test flight, Concorde was announced the winner of the Great British Design Quest, organised by the BBC and the Design Museum. In total, 20 Concordes were built, six for development and 14 for commercial service.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Christ the Redeemer, Brazil

You've undoubtedly seen a scene of this statue's amazing view on Television or some other media. Whenever one looks at it, one is overcome with its power and expression. It potrays Jesus standing on top a mountain, directly overlooking the 360 degree view of Rio de Janiero with open arms. It signifies fond welcoming, as well as the notion that Jesus has his arms spread for all, blessing Rio and the world. The aerial view of this statue is definitely my personal favourite, and I urge you to vote for it @

Christ the Redeemer is a large statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The statue stands 38m tall and is located at the peak of the 710m Corcovado mountain overlooking the city. As well as being a potent symbol of Christianity, the statue has become an icon of the city. What more, it can be seen from every corner of the metropolis.

The first recording of this statue's history is in 1859 when Vincentian father Pedro Maria Boss arrived in Rio de Janeiro and was struck by the mysterious beauty of the Corcovado mountain. He suggested the the construction of a religous monument, and requested Princess Isabel to finance its construction. Princess Isabel did not think much of the idea.

In 1921, however, the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro organized an event to attract donations for the idea of a great statue of christ viewable by all in the marvelous city of Rio. Brazilian Catholics cooperated, and eventually the statue of Christ the Redeemer with open arms was chosen.
It was designed by a Brazilian Heitor da Silva Costa and realised in stone by the French sculptor Paul Landowski.
The monument was inaugurated on October 12, 1931, by President GetĂșlio Vargas in a large, lavish ceremony.

The statue can be accessed by road or by the Corcovado Rack Railway. Until recently, the statue could only be reached from the train terminal via a large 222-step stairway, a huge hurdle for handicapped or elderly visitors. However, in 2002, the monument went through a large renovation process, when panoramic elevators and escalators were installed.

Escalator on the mount

In October 2006, on the occasion of the statue's 75th anniversary, Archbishop of Rio Cardinal Eusebio Oscar Scheid consecrated a chapel under the statue. This allows Catholics to hold baptisms and weddings there from January 2007.

Austrian base jumper Felix Baumgartner set a record for the lowest base jump(29m) when he leapt from one arm of the statue of Christ the Redeemer.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Dalai Lama

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual and temporal leader of the Tibetan people. Born to a peasant family, His Holiness was recognized at the age of two, in accordance with Tibetan tradition, as the reincarnation of his predecessor - the 13th Dalai Lama.

The 14th Dalai Lama

Tibetan Buddhists believe the Dalai Lama to be one of innumerable incarnations of the bodhisattva of compassion. Dalai Lama means Ocean of Wisdom.

Between the 17th century and 1959, the Dalai Lama was the head of the Tibetan government, administering a large portion of the country from the capital Lhasa. The Dalai Lama is considered the supreme head of Tibetan Buddhism, and the leaders of all four schools of Buddhism consider the Dalai Lama to be the highest monk of the Tibetan traditions.

The Potala Palace, residence of Dalai Lama in Lhasa, Tibet

In 1950, at age 16, His Holiness was called upon to assume full political power as Head of State and Government when Tibet was threatened by the might of China.

In 1959 the capital of Tibet, Lhasa, exploded with the largest demonstration in Tibetan history, calling on China to leave Tibet and reaffirming Tibet's independence. The Tibetan National Uprising was brutally crushed by the Chinese army. When China occupied Tibet, the 14th Dalai Lama sought refuge within India. The then Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru was instrumental in granting safe refuge to the Dalai Lama and his fellow Tibetans. The Dalai Lama has since been in refuge in Dharamsala, in the state of Himachal Pradesh in northern India, where the Central Tibetan Administration (The Tibetan Government in Exile) is also established. Tibetan refugees have constructed and opened many schools and Buddhist temples in Dharamsala.

Little monk in Dharamsala.

In the early years of exile, His Holiness appealed to the United Nations on the question of Tibet, resulting in three resolutions adopted by the General Assembly (in 1959, 1961 and 1965) calling on China to respect the human rights of Tibetans.

In Washington D.C., at the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in 1987, The Dalai Lama proposed a Five-Point Peace Plan, calling for the designation of Tibet as a zone of peace, an end to the massive transfer of ethnic Chinese into Tibet and the abandonment of China's use of Tibet for nuclear weapons production.

Recieving Nobel Peace Prize

The awarding of the 1989 Peace Prize to His Holiness won worldwide praise and applause, with exception of China. His Holiness accepted the prize on the behalf of all those who struggle for freedom and work for world peace, and of course, the people of Tibet. In his remarks he said,

"The prize reaffirms our conviction that with truth, courage and determination as our weapons, Tibet will be liberated. Our struggle must remain nonviolent and free of hatred."

The current Dalai Lama repeatedly states that he will never be reborn inside territory controlled by the People's Republic of China, and has occasionally suggested that he might choose to be the last Dalai Lama by not being reborn at all. However, he has also stated that the purpose of his repeated incarnations is to continue unfinished work and as such, if the situation in Tibet remains unchanged, it is very likely that he will be reborn to finish his work.

His Holiness often says, "I am just a simple Buddhist monk - no more, nor less."
He follows the life of Buddhist monk. Living in a small cottage in Dharamsala, he rises at 4 A.M. to meditate, pursues an ongoing schedule of administrative meetings, private audiences and religious teachings and ceremonies. He concludes each day with further prayer before retiring.

Such is the beauty and brilliance of the Dalai Lama. 48 years ago, he had been forced into India - and yet, he continues to fight and struggle for his lost land, in a peaceful way.
Peaceful, but Powerful.